How Americans understand racial and religious differences: A test of parallel items from a national survey

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Abstract

How can we better conceptualize attitudes about difference in an increasingly diverse, multicultural United States? This article uses data from a recent, nationally representative telephone survey with oversamples of African Americans and Hispanics to analyze attitudes about two prominent sources of distinction in the United States. Race and religion were selected because they tend to be understood in very different ways-race as a social problem, religion as an individual choice and collective good. To assess the utility of these contrasting emphases built into common survey measures, we constructed a battery of questions that included parallel items for both. Our findings indicate that, with some notable exceptions, Americans' attitudes tend to be more similar than different, such that respondents see comparable (rather than contrasting) positive and negative aspects of race and religion in the United States. Based upon these results, we argue for a more multifaceted approach to the conceptualization, measurement, and analysis of race and religion, with implications for how we generally approach difference, diversity, and multiculturalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-345
Number of pages23
JournalSociological Quarterly
Volume52
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2011

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